Dear Heather

*Today’s letter is written by my wonderful friend Betty Gail Jones, who has impacted countless children, teenagers, and college students over the years through her work in children’s ministry, collegiate ministry, mission work, and church planting. She is a fireball and someone God has certainly used in my life.*

Dear Heather,

BG blogI am calling you out!  There is no doubt that you deserve it!  Get ready for the truth!  I want you to know how what you have done has impacted me!

At a time in my life when I felt isolated and desperate, I found you though Facebook, of all places.  At times there seems to be an insurmountable barrier – namely the ocean – to knowing my grandchildren who live on the other side of the world.  You helped change some of that ever-present anxiety.  Yes, you stepped in when I needed you.  And as I get to know more about you, I find your availability to others to be significant, too.

Life gets busy no matter where one lives in the world.  If I could see pictures every day of my grandchildren who live overseas, I would be happy.  Yet, that is not to be, nor would it be a wise use of their parent’s time.  One day, as I were publicly pleading for more pictures on social media, you piped up and commented to me offering to accept my friendship if I requested.  You further explained that you often take pictures of Ajay, and sometimes Ari gets in the pictures, too.  As the local Kids Kamp teacher, you have access like no other to my grandchildren.  I realized that this was my opportunity for a view of their world that I had not had before, so I immediately went to your page and clicked out a request to be your “friend”.

BG blog 1What I found on your page was eye-opening.  I loved seeing the place where socialization and learning was taking place, not only for my grandchild, but also for the other children who are living overseas.  I recognized what a wonderful unique blessing your ministry is as I scrolled through the pictures and saw the wonder and joy on faces of such a diverse group of third culture kids.

Soon, your posts began showing up on my news feed.  Whether they were about everyday “mommy moments”, personal reflections, prayer requests for your kids, or funny quotes by those living in your home or attending your school, I enjoyed them all.  I even loved following your personal journey of the joys and challenges of your stateside visit.  I learned from each one.

bg blog 3One Sunday morning I stepped into my church and a friend looked at me with eyes of concern and said, “What about the landslide near Kathmandu?”  My heart sank into my stomach because I hadn’t heard of the tragedy and didn’t have any information.  My son-in-law and a friend were trekking at that moment, and I didn’t actually know where.  It was early in the morning on our side of the world and night where you live.  I knew I didn’t have access to my own children who aren’t as media driven as some, but I realized that you monitored Facebook more frequently and guessed that I could message you and would get an answer quickly.  Within a few minutes, I received a message back from you assuring me that everything was all right.  I was so grateful for your friendship, though we’ve never met, at that moment.

Through Facebook, I have learned of your own ministry to the nationals whom you call your “kids”, watched as you care for them and love them deeply, and joined you to pray for their needs.  I have grieved your losses with you as you have shared heartache, and I have rejoiced with you in victories.

bg blog 2At this time, I am enjoying the presence of my grandchildren for a season, but I know the impact you have had even now.  Ajay talks about his home and friends that he misses.  As I was listening in on a conversation between him and his cousin, Ajay told his older cousin about his school and how he misses it.

What a tremendous blessing you are to those young mothers who live in your country.  I would have never dreamed that these parents would have an opportunity to send their little ones to a pre-school situation where they are learning and playing in a social setting and their moms would have some time for other important things (and even a break from the constant responsibility of raising children without extended family or trusted friends’ help).

You do all of this with an attitude of joy.  You are a servant to others.  This, Heather, is why I am calling you out – to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I thank God for you and your family.

See you on Facebook!

Love,

Betty Gail Jones, aka Nanna

Henry’s 2012 gratitude list

*Special thanks to my friend and regular guest contributor to this blog, Henry Petty, for sharing his 2012 gratitude list with all of us.*

In 2012, I am grateful for getting to know a lot of friends whom I really didn’t know.  For example, I might see her, if I’m lucky, once a year in passing or at a sushi restaurant, but thanks to the miracle of social media, I am still able to carry on my friendship with Bethany.  It’s wonderful to see how far she’s come in life, and how she continues to be a beacon of light hundreds of miles away. 

ImageI am grateful to still have a good paying job.

I am grateful to be able to use my skills of dancing and making a complete fool of myself for the benefit of raising money for AETN, the benefit of entertaining others Gangnam Style at our employee holiday meeting, and to bring precipitation to North Little Rock in the dead heat of summer.  A sweet little lady volunteering at AETN told me that God has given me the gift of dancing.  Keep in mind, I’m not a small guy.  I have tree trunks for legs, and my footwork is questionable at best.  But I still dance.  I’ve always loved dancing from the very first time I gave it a shot at summer camp in high school.  It’s always stayed with me.  I don’t think I’m that good at it, but others find entertainment at what I can do – and that’s alright with me.

I am grateful for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, where my soul is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  I have grown spiritually more in 2012 than any of the other 32 years I’ve been on this rock.  It’s powerful.  It’s amazing if you really the work and love into it and just “let go”.

And I am thankful for pressing on.  There have been events in my life where I have “cheated death”.  I have seen others much much younger than I pass away.  I’m here for a reason, God still wants me here, and I’m going to work every day to find out what that exactly is.  Maybe it’s the dancing.

Be sure to check out Henry’s blog!

The written word

In an era marked by sore thumbs from rampant texting and Tweeting, the written word seems to have faded into the communicative background, or at best, been shortened, squeezed, and compressed into an abbreviated form of its former self. Sure, the written word still has its place. But as the price of postage rises, and the convenience of communicating by email, social media, and cell phones continues to improve, how many of us really write?

Not many.

This is not necessarily all bad. I’m very grateful for the advent of blogging. As someone who constantly corrals whirling notions in her brain, my blogs are a great creative connection to the world at large. And despite the frustrations resulting from Facebook’s unnecessary and frequently annoying technical changes, I’m grateful for opportunities to reconnect with old friends, family who live in other places, and former students and colleagues.

Writing, for me, has evolved into something new. I’ve embraced the way technology has affected the way I connect with others. But I am one of the stalwart, stubborn few who still insist on sending real thank you cards. I send my grandma handwritten cards and letters. I love nothing more than receiving handwritten sentiments from loved ones in the mail.

In my desk drawer sits a stack of lovely assorted cards and letters I’ve received. Periodically I file these away and save most of them. There’s nothing better than reading a card from a friend 10 years later. As I perused the pile a few days ago, I found a thank you card from a former patient.

“Dear Bethany,

I still see your beautiful face with the tears and have seen it many times as I looked at my dear husband and best friend . . .  Keep your compassion. God will indeed bless you.”

These written words mean something more to me every time I read them. They seriously impacted me then, and they continue to impact me now. They remind me that God uses me even when I don’t know He’s using me. They are little inky impressions from God, reminders of how important words are, spoken and received. Whether I send a handwritten card or a thoughtful email, the words I speak and write matter. And the words you speak and write to me matter. I’m grateful for them.